It seems like it was only yesterday that our cattle were all tagged with a single metal tag.

The system wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was simple and not very expensive. There was some loss of tags, but not massive.

Of course they were hard to read, and fairly easy for people to remove so there was probably a certain amount of fraud associated with them.

The answer, we were all led to believe, was a switch to plastic tags. They are easily read when they are clean, and with a tag in each ear, it would help to make sure that animals remained fully traceable.

But when these plastic tags are dirty, they are no better than the metal tags were. And it wasn’t very long until DAERA were chasing after farmers for not having the two tags in all the time.

When an animal loses a tag, the owner has one month to get a replacement tag ordered and inserted into the ear. It is also an offence to bring an animal to slaughter without it having two tags.

The whole thing has become a joke at the farmer’s expense. There is only one winner in this – the tag companies. The farmer has to smile and pay up, while the consumer gains nothing relating to the traceability of the meat.


I do not know if other farmers have the same problem as me, but I seem to be ordering replacement tags every couple of weeks. I reckon it is in the region of 40 replacement tags per year.

I have tried different brands of tags and I have tried button tags but these are not any better than the others. They all get brittle when they have been subjected to the weather for a few years. First one side breaks off and then the other half falls out.

I have tried to make my point to the tag companies but no one really wants to know. Every company claims that their tags are better than the other suppliers.I have struggled for years to see any real benefit in the current tagging system for cattle (or sheep).When you see other countries that only put a tag in the animal when they are going for slaughter, it makes you wonder why we bother.

The tagging of sheep is another waste of time and money. A farmer has to put two tags in a lamb (one with a microchip in it) before they can load it on to the trailer and take it to the meat factory. Then, in most of the factories they cannot even match the tag to the carcase. Who benefits here? Certainly not the farmer or the consumer.

Is there someone in an office dreaming up different ways of conning the farmer out of their hard-earned money? Why should we be paying for something that is of no benefit to us?

I have thought long and hard about this and I am trying to come up with some way that I can get more out of the tagging system.

The most recent batch of cattle tags that I have bought have a management space on them, with one of each set also having a microchip in it to allow animals to be identified electronically. I hope to eventually have a tagging system that may be of some use to me.

In the meantime, perhaps someone will come up with a tagging system that works for the farmer, with a tag that will not fall out.

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